3 Clach na h-Annait

Clach na h-Annait
an immense boulder of upright shape
   this Annat Stone is a mystery,
   here Brahn Seer prophesied:

   the raven will drink his fill
   of blood from the Stone

   (Otta Swire)

Clach na h-Annait; poem AF, photograph EN

find Skye's southerly aspect
beneath the dusk-pink slopes
of Beinn Dearg Mhòr & Beinn na Caillich,
where Suardail’s limestones flourish
Kilbride’s lush greens
& the farm’s brown cows browse
   between close birches

April splashes primrose pixels
among sheltered mossy stumps
   & down by the burn

the stone at Clach na h-Annait's
a meadow pintle,
it absorbs you into
its subtle alignment
– but the entire glen
   is feminine

from the tides of Camus Malag,           
to the white manse of Kilbride;
from the hill of shades, Beinn an Dubhaich,
to the summit of the Cailliach

the little burns & rock clefts
invite you to descend into a demesne
sacred to Anaitis, first
   & forgotten goddess

Clach na h-Annait (Grid ref: NG52SE 2). Site records for the standing stone are available on RCAHMS

The stone is named after the goddess Anaitis, who became the presiding deity for A Company of
Mountains, and whose mythology is described in more detail below and in the guide for Dùn Beag. The 
account is mythopoetic and, while it is firmly based on the specific facts of the archaeological records, 
the speculative aspect represents my own view, in a project that collages together many views. The 
epigraph is from Otta Swire, Skye: The Island and its Legends (1952). The dominant peaks of the red 
Cuillin behind Kilbride are Beinn Dearg Mhòr, Big Red Peak, and Beinn na Caillich, Peak of the Crone
whose name relate to the Anaitis myth, figuring as Winter to Anaitis spring, identified with Artemis & 
St Brighid (St Bride). The smaller hill of Beinn an Dubhaich, Mountain of Shades, is the site of Anaitis 
temple-cave, Uamh An Ard Achadh, High Pasture Cave. She has two temples on the Isle of Skye: the 
second, by River Bay, is described in the guide to Dùn Beag. Continue down the track from the manse 
to Camus Malag, Norse Mála-vik, Bay of Measure, or (more poetically) Speech Cove.

 Clach na h-Annait; poem & photograph AF

Tobhar na h-Annait

   A N A I T I S
   A R T E M I S

   B R I G H I D

poem & photograph AF

waters meet at the well of fertility,
confluence of 3 goddesses
   hid under the bog’s veil of secrecy

3 times I searched for the source,
but, like a horse, I had to be led
   from the stone to water

the revenant ruins of Cille-Bhrìghde
have been neatly stashed
   within groves of ash;

the church's old bronze bell
buried in the old style, below
   Clach na h-Annait

words that kill; poem & photograph AF

the stippled trunks of a hazel copse
hid the iron-fisted evangelist, Colum Cille,
who slew a wild boar 

with such terrible power
   as his speech released

   words that heal
   words that kill

this wild-wood fable throws a shroud
   over Xtian dominion

holy writ christened the sacred well;
holy law banished the shamanic boar cult
   of the folk on the hill
the sacred boar of Uamh An Ard Achadh,
   killed by Colum Cille,

resurrected on the shield of Clan MacKinnon,
carved on a keystone
   in Cille-Chrìosd

Tobhar na h-Annait (Grid ref: NG52SE 2). Site records for the well are available on RCAHMS.
This viewpoint is so rich that it required two viewpoints; Anaitis domain stretches from the first 

viewpoint – the standing stone Clach na h-Annait, and well Tobar na h-Annait – to the second 
viewpoint, the shieling that conceals Uamh An Ard Achadh, High Pasture Cave, facing the summit 
of Beinn na Caillich. On my third visit, Caroline Dear guided me to the well. Suardail, Grassy Glen.
 Kilbride derives from Cille-Bhrìghde, Brighid or Bride's church, now a ruin, abandoned in favour 
of Cille-Chrìosd, Christ Church, also now a ruin. Colum Cille, Columba, killed a wild boar here by 
the power of his words. Ken Cockburn suggests this fable retells the conversion of the shamanic cult 
of Anaitis, for excavations at High Pasture Cave revealed a horde of sacrificed pigs. This imperialist 
reading of the effect of old Christianity is offset by Cockburn's suggestion that the earliest Gaelic 
Christians dovetailed their spirituality with aspects of native pre-Christian lore, viewing the Druidic 
past as a sort of 'Celtic Old Testament.' Columba overwrote his birth name, Cremthann, Wolf, to 
Collum Cille, Dove – a translation echoing Cu-Chulainn, who changed his name from Setanta,  
Knower of Ways, to Hound of Culann. Clan MacKinnon's shield includes a wild boar holding the 
bone of a stag in its mouth; excavations at Cille-Chrìosd revealed a boar carving.

word-mntn (Blà-bheinn), AF

a christening



poem & photograph, AF

walk up the knoll from the well
to the grove of ash, rowan
   & hawthorn

by rising these few degrees 

you become the aligning 
   of natural features;
now the manmade landmarks make sense,
the Rúm Cuillin finding their proper relation
to the grey digit of Annait,
stiff & smooth among buttercups; 

no longer a stone, it's become
   a topographical gnomon

looking from ‘the one’

makes the connection
   between island & island

then the sightline pulls 

through the stone,
penetrates through your mind
& out the back of your head
   to Beinn na Caillich

 Askival, photograph David Conniss


Tobar na h-Annait contains
   a symbolic ratio

   (stone) : (mountain)

from the hill the alignment reveals
the stone standing as a model
   of the domed peak


        S     K

      I          V

    A             L

now the meadow becomes a rock garden,
   Skye's temple of Ryoan-ji

the little knoll sees over
the screen of trees that protect the manse,
giving a westerly bearing:
from the tall pine 

to the punctured pitch of the massif,
   seen now in stark relief

Blà-bheinn, Bla Fjell of the Norse,
where shaggy juniper dig their roots
into the old summer pasturage
   of Coire an Uaigneis,
   Corrie of Secrets

   I can see the skyline,
   I can hear the mountain
   as the water rushes down,
   I can feel Blà-Bheinn’s
   presence behind me

      (Martin Wildgoose)

follow the tooth-bitten ridge
across to Garbh-bheinn & the glen of Strath Mor,
that is dividing Red from Black Cuillin
& joining the north & south coasts,
along a boggy path that winds the 4 miles
   between Torrin & Luib

The buttercups in the meadow, buidheag an t-samhraidh; ash, uinnseann; rowan, caorann

hawthorn, sgìtheach; pine, giuthas; juniper, aiteann. Strath Mor, Great Glen; Torrin, Na Torrain, 
The Little Hills; An Lùib, The Bend; this path is a shortcut between the seas north & south, used 
since the Mesolithic era, when the tides reached further inland. The photogrpah of Askival is by
Dave. Martin Wildgoose, archaeologist, described the atmosphere around High pasture Cave. 
Ryoan-ji, the famous temple garden in Kyoto, composed of rock & sand; the rocks are said to 
represent mountains. Roderick Watson's poem 'Bla Bheinn', below, comes from his collection 
Into the Blue Wavelengths (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2004).


word-mntn (trollabhal), AF

Bla Bheinn

Like a door     between the sky drifting
and everywhere you are:     shifting
yellow light;   ridge after ridge
of cloud and scree-run falls;
sgurr and rock in bands of glare
and heavy shadow;     layer
on layer     rising up
from the corrie in different hues
of stone and splintered light;
where granophyre     gabbro     dolerite
(sharp as axeheads and cinders
balanced on a narrow shelf)
slowly unlock the steady route
between space     and our careful boots.

           When we stepped through
           the yellow haze
           we saw another shore.
           (Door upon door).

Roderick Watson


word-mntn (Blà-bheinn & Garbh-bheinn), poem AF; photograph, EN

we walk around the garden
opening a new connection
trying to find more band-
width for the wi-fi stream

looking up at the stars
I spot a satellite tracking
in and out of the dim
between bright constellations

lost in the lithic glen
the Ethernet defers
to the defining moon
and Blà-bheinn’s dark outline

everyone’s been saying
how it’s been years
since Venus & Jupiter
were seen so close together

The word-mntn photograph is taken from Torrin, a mile or so beyond Kilbride. The conjunction of 

Venus and Jupiter (Bheunas, Lupatar) was viewed when Ken Cockburn & I stayed in the holiday 
chalet at Kilbride, late April 2012. 

Ken Cockburn, Kilbride Manse, AF

Anaitis well

that mysterious Anait
whose Scythian name survives
in the Gaelic West, and nothing else

   (Fiona Macleod)

Tobar na h-Annait, the well of Anaitis, photograph AF

a spring may release currents
of pure water, even if it bubbles up
   in a bog

search in the cow meadow
beside the white shed,
where flag-iris unfurl,
for the millstone that circles
   the sacred well,
   dedicated to:


   Annat   Annait   Anaitis

   sacred to rivers & burns

Anaitis: source, stream of beliefs;
   burn run underground

every people carries its faith with it;
ancient semitic tribes left the traces
of their goddess embedded in place-names
   throughout Scotland



   at Annat
   at Annet
   at Andat
   at Anaid
   at Annatland
   at Anatiscruik
   at Annotturis
   at Annatstoun
   at Annatfield

     at Longannat
     at Craigannet
     at Ernanity

     at Cleidh na h-Annait
     at Coire na h-Annait
     at Allt na h-Annait            

to which we add the 4 known
   Skye Anaitis

   Teampall Annaitis
   on the River Bay, Waternish

   Camus na h-Annait
   at Neist Point
   on Staffin Island

   Ach na h-Annaid
   at Braes

& over the Minch, but visible from Skye,
the well of Annait on the blessed isles of Shiant,

& Teampull na h-Annaid on the isle of Killigray,
   by Harris

old place-name surveys state:
Annait, from Irish: site of an old church
translating the goddess of springs & Spring
into the baptismal tradition
   of Brighid

The epigraph is from Fiona Macleod's Iona (1900). The flag-iris around the well are bog-uisge

MacBain, in his Place names, Highlands & Islands of Scotland (1922) gives the derivation as 
annone, church, from Hebrew; contemporary research suggests a linguistic connection with 
Scythia and the ancient Persian goddess Anahita, divinity of waters and healing. The well at 
Kilbride is associated with fertility. The list of Anaitis sites on Skye was compiled with the help of 
Caroline Dear. Her book the colours of Skye offers another kind of overview of the island. The 
trout is referred to by Martin Martin in A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland: 'I saw 
a little Well in Kilbride ... with one Trout only in it; the Natives are very tender of it ... there is a 
Rivulet not far distant from the Well, to which it hath probably had access thro some narrow 
Passage.' The rivulet can still be seen.

 the well: poem & photograph, AF

word-mntn (Beinn na Caillich)


this little well was blessed
with its own trout,
swimming around & about,
which no-one would eat,
even if it got caught
   in their bucket

Uamh An Ard Achadh, High Pasture Cave

word-mntn (Beinn na Caillich), rubber stamp circle poem; poems & photograph AF

High Pasture, a prosaic name that guides
our thoughts to the pastoral traditions
   of transhumance

the old calendar drove May's herdsman
higher up the sheiling, to fresh pasture,
mending dykes & field-markers,
sheltering in the airigh from July’s
   midges & rain

Anaitis, photograph GK

shafts of winter light pink the hoar
   on Beinn na Caillich

the sun glints a ring over the garnet aureole
   of Beinn an Dubhaich
Anaitis’s limbless riverworn form
was laid by the hazel burn,
into which bone-ash was cast
to wash from the cave down
   the chthonic sink

poem AF, photograph CD

after the excavations, archaeologists 

indexed their made things, technologies,
picturing folk in the roundhouses
working looms & querns,
leaving their offerings at the portals
   of the underworld


    an antler tine
    a fine bronze ring
    soapstone spindle whorls
    a host of slaughtered young pigs
    carved saddle querns burnt by flame 
    copper & garnet, mined in the hush of the burn
    a carved granite orb beside the disc of a beach stone
    pilgrims’ quartz-pebble wishes, layered between crushed bone
    the oak bridge of a lyre, knotted with 6 strings of fine horse-hair, gold or silver

bridge of the lyre, photograph George Kozikowski

poem & photograph AF

this dexterous culture of surplus
skillfully fashioned objects
   then set them ablaze

these offerings were interred in subterranean caches,
to accompany a young woman of status
– priestess or princess – whose remains
tell us she enjoyed a rich diet,
& whose bones show her hands were kept
   free from work

her corpse was laid on a willow bier   
wrapped in a shroud of catkins;
white lilies at her breast,
red campion by her heart,
sprigs of holly for protection,
woven flora spelling the indivisible wisdom
   of birth-life-death

what passing herbal high made her dying
   the rite kind of ecstatic vision?

 circle poem & photograph AF       


in these caves & sinks we come close to paradox;
knowledge remains out of reach, 

   obscure as peaty waters

the cave is sealed under the wooden trap;
sit by the birch & hazel of Coille Gaireallach
where the water flows into the passage;
close your eyes & listen, descending
lucidly into darkness with a vision
of rough stairs, reflected waters
   & the weak gleam of bone

go on in your vision, until you reach the mouth
of the Bone Passage & the mound
   of women’s ashes
now imagine the votive Anaitis stone

   fulcrum of an enclosure

Her weather-sculpted vulva, labia, shapely pap,
sun-struck by rays that pierce
the frosty skyline of Imbolc
penetrating north in their seasonal insurrection
against the old crone, the hag, mountain-matriarch,
Cailleach Bheur, reinterred in her chambered tomb
   on Beinn na Caillich

dolorous wisdom & eternal Spring
recur in the seasonal round
   of the feminine glen

Archaeologists working at Uamh An Ard Achadh have created a fine website dedicated to the site. 

The cave is closed to the public (Grid ref: NG 5943 1971). I am grateful to George Kozikowski for 
the photograph of the votive stone Anaitis, found above the cave; the stone has since been removed 
and will someday be returned. As well as the female genitalia of the stone, the cave contains a 
labium rock form. Airigh, mountain hut; ruins of ancient airigh are scattered on the slopes around 
the glen. For more information on the 2,300-year-old lyre see this video; in conversation, John Purser
suggested the possible materials that the strings would have been made from. The female body was
first left outside for birds to cleanse her flesh, then placed at the top of the stairs which lead down to 
the cave entrance, along with those of her boy and a foetus, whose bones were mixed with those of a 
young pig. Her skull was broken with a stone, laid on a willow bier, saille eilitriom seilich, decorated 
with lilies, cìrean, and red campion, coilich. The entire area was covered with earth. The remains of 
a large number of sacrifical pigs, fed on rich foods, were found at the cave, indicating its importance as 
a ritual site. Beinn an Dubhaich contains deposits of garnet, epigranite & uranium. The burn that 
sculpted the cave system is nameless; Ken & I suggest Allt Challtuinn, Hazel Burn, or The Orphean 
Burn, as possibilities. Martin Wildgoose described the sun penetrating over the hill at Imbolc (1st or 
2nd February). Beinn na Caillich, Peak of the Crone; I have identified 2 other sites in Scotland where 
there is a conjunction of Anaitis & Calliach, one above Loch Lyon, the other on Scoraig peninsula. This 
poem was enriched by conversations with Caroline Dear, Martin Wildgoose, Meg Bateman & Ken 

 photograph CD

poem & photograph AF

Ken Cockburn, The Orphean Burn    

poem & photograph AF

today the golden bough
is a trapdoor
opening into a cleft
in which the burn
sings its cold songs

Orpheus returns
from the underworld
alone and shivering
bewildered in sunlight
to lose his loss
in a voice untamed

by birch and hazel
by oak and alder
deer and goat
curlew and eagle
and even the boar
deep in the forest dark

approach and gather
and lie down before him

trimeter, after Stevie Wonder

poem AF, photograph CD

inspired by Anaitis
we composed this litany of superstitions
   during our stay at Kilbride

very superstitious
  rowans round the dun
very superstitious
  clouds fringed by the sun

very superstitious
   a ring around the moon
very superstitious
   wood-sorrel on the dùn
very superstitious
   these vitrified remains
very superstitious
   Anait’s secret springs
very superstitious
  parked in a passing place
very superstitious
  double-knotted lace
very superstitious
   lichens on the wall
very superstitious
   one fish in the well
very superstitious
   three dogs and a cat
very superstitious
   Gothic on the map

very superstitious
   a raven overhead
very superstitious
   scissors cut the thread

very superstitious
   sheep graze on the beach
very superstitious
   how far the spring-tides reach

very superstitious
   rowan, hazel, birch
very superstitious
   Brighid’s vanished church

very superstitious
   pu-erh in the flask
very superstitious
   questions left unasked

very superstitious
  drinking pai-mu-tan
very superstitious
   is the Cuillin sky or land?

very superstitious
   lift these stones alone
very superstitious
   High Pasture’s splintered bone

very superstitious
   buried underground
very superstitious
   waiting to be found

very superstitious
   fragments of a lyre
very superstitious
   the dance that spins you higher

very superstitious
   hazel by the burn
very superstitious
   bracken greens to fern

very superstitious
   shielings on the moor
very superstitious
   lintels on the floor

very superstitious
   red buoy on the rocks
very superstitious
   the reeds speak to the lochs

very superstitious
   clear water of the pool
very superstitious
   shallows drown a fool

very superstitious
   shadows on the ridge
very superstitious
   standing on the edge

 (Ken Cockburn & Alec Finlay)

Camus Malag

word-mntn (Bl
à-bheinn & Garbh-beinn), poem & photograph AF

for seawards view, follow Allt na Leith-pheighinne
as it meanders from Kilbride in a vague bead,
through heath, myrtle & bog,
   to find its salt end

the burn’s course trails past
the white gash of the Skye marble quarry;
absorbing all this geology
it's impossible to feel old
   any longer

share Camus Malag with its flock of wiry sheep,
as you align Dùn Beag’s rocky point
with the crest of Garbh-bheinn,
   & mark the path to Suisnish

there's a prospect south-west,
across the stour of Loch Slapin,
Strathaird & the scar of Ben Meabost,
to the Rúm Cuillin, resting on the lintel
   of an epochal interval
travel your eyes from Barkaval, Hallival,
the ash pinnacle of Askival,
over Bealach an Oir to the twin tops
   of Trollabhal

up Bealach an Fhuarain to Ainshval,
along the ridge to Sgùrr nan Gillean
   & the hidden ending of Ruinsival

Allt na Leith-pheighinne, possibly ‘Burn of the Half Pennyland'. The moorland flora are heath,  

feur monaidh, and myrtle, roid. Dùn Beag, Little Fort; other dùns on this coast are listed in the 
guide to Dùn Liath. Translations of the mountains are given in the conspectus below; the bealachs 
or passes on Rúm are Bealach an Oir, Golden pass or Pass of the Edge, and Bealach an Fhuarain, 
possibly Pass of the Spring.

 word-mntn (Beinn na Caillich), poem AF, photograph EN


word-mntn (Beinn an Dubhaich), AF

Clach na h-Annait conspectus

This conspectus is composed from the names of some of the mountains that 
visible from this location. The centre-point marks the location of Clach na h-Annait. 

The typography represents the view as it is experienced by the human eye, 
giving an
approximate impression of distance and scale. Mountain ridges are 
indicated by
overlapping names. The gradation of hill slopes is suggested by 
the use of grey-
scale, with the peak in black.

Click on this graphic to view the original and, if you wish, 
print it out for use in
situ. A booklet containing all 14 conspectuses is available from ATLAS ArtsThe
14 conspectuses have also been archived in an 
album, indexed hereA complete 
list of the mountains referred to in the Clach na h-Annait guide is given 
with links from each one to its OS map. English translations have been 
given where
possible. A gallery of word-mntn drawings, including mountains visible from Clach
na h-Annait, can be found on the drawing page.

AinshvalHill of the Stronghold
An StòrrThe Big (One)
AskivalPeak of the Ash
BarkavalFell of Terraces
Beinn an DubhaichMountain of Shades (?)
Beinn Dearg Mhòr Big Red Mountain
Beinn na CaillichMountain of the Crone
Beinn BeilligBirch Bark Mountain
Ben MeabostPeak of Tulm
Blà-bheinnBlue Mountain
Garbh BheinnRough Mountain
Sgurr nan GilleanPeak of the Lads
TrollabhalTroll Peak


Alec Finlay (AF)

Gavin Morrison
Ken Cockburn (KC)
Caroline Dear (CD)
Geoge Kozikowski
Emma Nicolson (EM)
Martin Wildgoose

Gaelic consultant
Maoilios Caimbeul


to view the next conspectus click here
to return to the map with links to all 14 guides click here
to read the project overview click here 
for basic project information, including acknowledgements, click here


Còmhlan Bheanntan | A Company of Mountains
commissioned by ATLAS, Skye, 2012-13


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